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Norwalk BoE set to appoint Estrella as new Norwalk Super

Alexandra Estrella, Ed. D. (LinkedIn)

NORWALK, Conn. — Alexandra Estrella, Ed. D, has been chosen to be Norwalk’s next Superintendent of Schools.

“Dr. Estrella, a first-generation Latina-American, is a visionary, innovative, forward-thinking leader that does not accept the status quo regarding scholar development and learning opportunities,” the Board of Education said in a statement. “An educator with over 20 years of experience, Dr. Estrella has spent the last seven years in the role of superintendent for Community School District Four in East Harlem, New York.”

The statement is included in the packet for Thursday’s BoE virtual meeting, where the Board is expected to vote to approve the appointment. She would become superintendent on July 1.

Estrella would replace Norwalk Superintendent of Schools Steven Adamowski, who took the role in mid-2015. Adamowski has served out his five-year contract, becoming Norwalk’s first stable leader in a role that featured much turnover before his arrival – six superintendents in eight years, including two interim supers.

She would also be the first female superintendent since Susan Marks resigned in July 2012 after leading for two years, and the first non-Caucasian since Manny Rivera exited in January 2015 after 1.5 years on the job.

“Part of the New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE), District Four comprises twenty-three schools serving approximately 13,500 students grades 3-K through 12. During the 2019-2020 academic school year, she received three proclamations from community legislative officials highlighting her relentless commitment to improving the lives of children and families in the East Harlem community,” the statement reports.

It continues:

“She started her career as a science teacher in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, and during her tenure, she designed curricula that supported scholars to develop their observational, critical, and analytical skills. She founded the first STEM fair within the school and challenged middle school students to take advanced science courses that allowed them to earn high school and NYS Regents credit. In 2008, Dr. Estrella founded Esperanza Preparatory Academy, a dual-language middle school in East Harlem, NY. In 2011, she proposed and obtained approval to expand the school to grades 6-12. She acquired a number of bilingual and technology grants that supported the school in the development of its dual- language program. She also started one of the first 6-12 special education inclusion programs in the City of New York.

“As a direct reflection of her support to schools and her strategic leadership at NYCDOE District Four, she increased the District’s New York State ELA scores by 22% and mathematics by 20%. In partnership with Hunter College, she acquired a multimillion-dollar grant from New York Trust that allowed the district to establish an intensive early childhood literacy intervention program that propelled State scores by 18%. “Graduation rates have increased from 70% to 84%. Through the refinement of curricula leveraging Columbia University’s Teachers College Readers and Writers Project and Harvard University’s Advanced Literacies research, she narrowed the achievement gap for multilingual learners by increasing literacy proficiency by over 20% for the majority of students by the time they transitioned to become former multilingual learners.

“Dr. Estrella is known as an instructional leader who focuses on building the capacity of leaders and teachers. She sets clear, measurable goals while utilizing an investigative lens to identify problems of practice that can be targeted to improve student achievement. Through supervisory coaching and the support of established professional learning communities, school leaders learned to develop theories of action that lead to systematic change and improvement of student outcome measures.

“She has enhanced broadband accessibility for students through multi-million dollar grants and partnerships with Apple and Verizon. During her tenure, District Four schools have also enriched science curricula and exposed students to healthy eating habits through hydroponics and rooftop gardens, while others utilized the Hudson River to learn about oyster preservation and local ecosystems. She also partnered with Dr. Mark Brackett, Director of Yale University’s Center for Emotional Intelligence, to develop teacher pedagogy, school leader capacity and efficacy around social-emotional learning using the Mood Meter and other RULER strategies.

“As a superintendent, Dr. Estrella has also focused on supporting school leaders and staff to develop their capacity to support culturally and linguistically diverse learning communities, while building culturally responsive environments. For the past several years, she has engaged school leaders in implicit bias and culturally-responsive trainings, solving for disproportionality and achieving equity that resulted in suspension reduction and increased achievement for all students. She is a firm believer of inclusive-learning models. She opened several special education inclusion programs throughout the district and housed the only dual language NEST programs in the city, which she expanded during her tenure to serve additional grades.

“Dr. Estrella is passionately committed to educational equity. She believes in the power of schools to change lives, and is resolute that no child should be kept from attaining his or her dream because of obstacles that can be overcome.

“Dr. Estrella earned a doctorate of education with honors from Sage College of Albany, a masters degree in Science Education from Pace University and a masters degree in educational leadership from Baruch College. She holds a bachelor of science from Fordham University Marymount, where she double majored in biology and chemistry. Dr. Estrella has been certified by the Connecticut State Department of Education as a superintendent of schools and for intermediate administration and supervision.

“Dr. Estrella and her husband have three children, fourteen-year-old twin sons and an eighteen-year-old daughter. Their twins will start high school at Norwalk Public Schools in August 2020 and their daughter will enter her first year of college.”

 

“I am delighted to welcome Dr. Estrella to Norwalk Public Schools,” BoE Chairwoman Sarah LeMieux said in an email. “Her specific experience, combined with her thoughtfulness, diligence and inclusivity are going to be huge assets to us as we navigate through this uncertainty. In her work in the New York City Public school system, she has already accomplished many of the things we’re trying to do here in Norwalk, in terms of closing the achievement gap, increasing equity, social emotional education and bilingual education. She’s the right fit for Norwalk, and I couldn’t be happier that she’s joining us.”

Story updated at 9:15 p.m. to include a comment from Sarah LeMieux.

Alexandra Estrella espanol 4-16-2020

23 comments

Kenneth Werner April 15, 2020 at 8:55 pm

Estrella appears to be a stellar appointment. But I am curious. Why wasn’t Adamowski’s contract renewed?

Barbara Meyer-Mitchell April 15, 2020 at 10:29 pm

Dr. Adamowski had a five year contract, and he did not want to remain after that term.

Sue Haynie April 16, 2020 at 6:15 am

This quote concerns me, how much stock does Dr. Estrella put in Columbia University’s Readers & Writers Project? “Through the refinement of curricula leveraging Columbia University’s Teachers College Readers and Writers Project and Harvard University’s Advanced Literacies research, she narrowed the achievement gap for multilingual learners…”

Lucy Calkins is the Founding Director of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University.

“A first of its kind review finds Lucy Calkins’ materials don’t align with the science of reading.”

https://www.apmreports.org/story/2020/01/27/lucy-calkins-reading-materials-review

Mike Barbis April 16, 2020 at 8:06 am

To clarify:
Dr. Adamowski is retiring after nearly 50 years as a professional educator. He committed to a five year contract and he honored those five years.

Brenda Wilcox Williams April 16, 2020 at 9:30 am

Regarding the question on Dr. Adamowski: after 49 years in educational leadership, Dr. Adamowski is retiring in July as planned.

Diane Lauricella April 16, 2020 at 9:35 am

Wonderful news! Dr. Estrella brings a wealth of knowledge to Norwalk, has an impressive resume, and I especially like her previous emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

While we are in a world where credible scientific minds are needed to help us get through the COVID 19 crisis, teaching our young people about science, technology, engineering and math (in addition to the Arts, or STEAM, which was added to the Ponus curriculum) will help our Society handle future pandemics, if not avoid them.

Thank you BOE for your diligence and thank you Dr. Adamoski for your service.

Mimi Chang April 16, 2020 at 9:47 am

Dr. Estrella sounds like a great choice for Norwalk. Best of luck to her! It sounds like she is a hands-on champion of administrators and teachers and really works with, challenges and listens to them. May she be apolitical and cut through the partisan baloney NPS has been afflicted by as of late. Politics have no place in education. Hopefully, Dr. Estrella’s leadership will end that unfortunate chapter for the sake of our children and all of us.

Google is your friend April 16, 2020 at 8:01 pm

One Google search of her name explains everything. She has had many troubles with teachers and students.

Eleanor Lx April 16, 2020 at 8:57 pm

Norwalk needs a superintendent who can contain costs in these challenging economic times – no more big hikes please!

RayJ April 17, 2020 at 7:29 am

Google is not always your friend, imagine that.
Congrats Alexandra Estrella, Ed. D, do your best for us, we need you

David Milligsny April 17, 2020 at 8:28 am

Congratulations to Dr. Estrella. She exemplifies the word professionalism. Her work ethic and dedication to child development is second to none. Norwalk is very lucky to have her.

Babar Sheikh April 17, 2020 at 8:47 am

All you googlers and Marjorie, please copy and paste. Don’t just tease. I don’t see much after googling her. Some
parents didn’t like her, is that a big deal? If you do your job right, you will piss off a few people. Parents are very biased, reactive and rarely right. Drag show? We have drag story time at our library, seems fun.

Ramiro Borja April 17, 2020 at 9:14 am

CONGRATULATIONS Dr. Estrella. First on being 1st Gen NYC MLL life-long learner and giver. Then daughter, wife, Teacher, mother, Ed. D. and now most importantly ~ continuing the efforts of an altruistic 4Ever educator.
God’s Speed!

Yazmin April 17, 2020 at 1:10 pm

I had the honor of working with Dr. Estrella. Dr. Estrella is committed to ensuring all students have equitable learning opportunities to succeed. Dr. Estrella is committed to the development of leaders and teachers. This process of developing leaders and teachers only impacts the teaching and learning in a positive way. The development process has included- addressing equity and access issues, developing a language for literacy through the Advance Literacy Research, examining the importance of Stem Education for all students and the clear focus around developing Special Education programs that are centered around helping each individual student. The leadership Dr. Estrella exhibited will always be remembered as we have learned so much.

Robert Rodriguez April 17, 2020 at 1:16 pm

Dr. Estrella is an inspiration to leadership. Every single time I had an interaction with Dr. Estrella her focus was around making education practices better for children. During our professional conversations Dr. Estrella demonstrated a clear vision for ensuring equity and access for all.
This is a leader who will bring so much knowledge and passion to the Norwalk School District.

Mona Silfen, EdD April 17, 2020 at 8:04 pm

I have worked with Dr. Estrella since 2008. From the moment she arrived in District 4, East Harlem I knew I had found a colleague with an extensive background in special education. She immediately implemented special ed policies and best practices into her school. When Dr. Estrella was promoted to our district leader she continued her commitment to her vision and implementation and always supported our school communities. Dr. Estrella raised the benchmark for our students and always reminded us of the importance of challenging our students with a quality education that was rigorous. She ensured that we all worked hard and remembered the most vulnerable children, special education and English Language Learners. I learned a lot from her and she will bring a great deal of knowledge and expertise to Norwalk school district. I wish her much success!

Pantelidis April 17, 2020 at 8:08 pm

Dr.Estrella is one of a kind. Her passion and commitment is second to none. The Norwalk school system made an outstanding
choice.

Jessica H April 17, 2020 at 10:30 pm

Dr. Estrella’s focus on special education has been such a benefit for my son. The growth I’ve seen in my child in the past four years under her guidance has been incredible. Congratulations Dr. Estrella and congratulations Norwalk, you are in great hands!

Mary T April 17, 2020 at 10:53 pm

After all of my years in the DOE never have I worked under someone so driven, determined and focused. Her vision for the children and her determination to help achieve success for every child is unmatched. Her understanding that parents are critical in the education process and eagerness to reach parents and get their involvement was a sight to see. The void will be felt and Dr. Estrella you will be missed. Congratulations Dr. Estrella! Norwalk you’ve made an excellent choice.

Frances Castillo April 19, 2020 at 10:44 pm

I have had the honor and privilege of working with Dr. Estrella for the last 7 years. During those 7 years I can attest that
Dr. Estrella, has proven to be a remarkable Superintendent. She has effectively put forth structures and practices facilitating the continued growth of leaders, teachers, students and parents impacting not only academic growth but social emotional growth as well.

Under her leadership and guidance, she provided our District 4 school community with ongoing professional development with some of the highly regarded consultants in the field in the areas of Equity and Access, data driven instruction, Advanced Literacy, STEM Education, English New Learner. In addition to the hands-on learning opportunities, Dr. Estrella also implemented principal professional learning communities. The latter afforded principals the opportunity to visit schools within their cohort and learn from another. This system of support promoted good practices within respective schools and consistency of vision and goals within the district.

In her role as Superintendent, Dr. Estrella not only prioritized the education of teachers and leaders, but the role of parents within our school community. In this vein, she facilitated monthly sessions with the parent coordinators to impart the vision and goals she provided to the schools to ensure that parents had a mutual understanding and role in its implementation. She valued parent participation and involvement and worked in conjunction with the Department of Education’s Parent Academy to offer parent workshops throughout the district focused on how parents can help their children at home.

Beyond her skill, knowledge, and experience, Dr. Estrella lives her personal and professional life as a model which benefits community, families, and students. She brings integrity and moral purpose to all that she does. Through her hard work and advocacy, Dr. Estrella has truly transformed District 4. She will be missed, but her work will continue in the practices she has instituted within Community School District 4.

I personally developed new and strengthened many of my practices as a principal under her leadership. Her transparency, her commitment and above all her quest to learn and impart knowledge always putting children first will forever be a trademark that speaks to who Dr. Estrella is. She is one to push you to be all that you can, no excuses not BUTS. In her eyes everyone can if provided with the proper tools to succeed.

I confidently can say that while District 4 has lost a precious gem, the Norwalk School Community has gained a valuable treasure. The Norwalk School Community will be pushed towards excellence and it will continue to grow and flourish under the leadership of Dr. Estrella.

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